Ornamental Grasses in the Garden
Ornamental grasses are rarely thought of as the centre pieces of any planting scheme, they are however wonderful accompaniments to many perennials, trees and shrubs. These grasses work their socks off to make everyone else look good. Ornamental grasses will add texture, colour, interest and sound if used correctly. They can even be enjoyed through the winter months when the frost sits on seed heads and the low sun makes them glisten. The smaller varieties will benefit from being planted in groups to increase their effectiveness. Grasses can be very successfully used in contemporary garden designs but will also work just as well when incorporated into more cottage garden schemes, something for everyone.
Top grasses for the garden;
1. Most of you who have an interest in gardening will know of the colour that come with Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ or ‘Blue Fox’. These plants are drought resistant (ideal on dry banks) and need little in the way of maintenance once they become established. Their wonderful blue to steely silver foliage will cool any hot colours (crocosmia, kniphopia) or compliment lilacs and blue (salvia, lavender or erysium).
2. If you long to create movement in the garden, Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass) is the grass for you. This perennial grass has airy foliage and seed heads that will dance in the least breeze. Plant it en masse the effect is like wind across a rolling prairie. It enjoys moist but well drained soil and will grow to approx. 1m in height.
3. Anemanthele lessoniana/Stipa arundinacea (New Zealand wind grass or Pheasant grass) has so much to offer, its arching stems and semi evergreen foliage are accompanied by sprays of tiny reddish brown flowers. This elegant grass will become tinged with red or orange in summer and the flowers arrive in late summer. This grass will tolerate heavier soils and is happy in exposed areas; it will grow to a height of about 1m.
4. Miscanthus sinensis has many varieties which are all wonderful in the garden, Klein Fontaine, Malepartus, Zebrinus the list is long! These are tall clump forming grasses that will tolerate moist but well drained soils, most will tolerate exposed sites as well as sheltered. Most are deciduous but will give year round interest when the seed heads are left intact through the winter months. Depending on the variety these grasses will be anything from 1m to 2.5m tall, very dramatic and probably best suited to the larger garden.
5. If you like variegated plants then Carex have the gold variegated Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’, white variegated Everest, these evergreen grasses are commonly used in window boxes and hanging basket displays in autumn and winter. Carex ‘Frosted Curls’ this perennial grass is easy to grow in shade or sun and will sit very tamely amongst flowering perennials reaching no more than 50cm high, this carex will add movement and interest to any planted scheme.
6. We cannot ignore the pampas grass or coraderia, this plant was achingly popular twenty odd years ago when we craved the exotic. The plumes seed heads were seen in every fashionably garden for miles. These days’ people are more wary of how large it can grow and how difficult it can be to get rid of. If you still have a yearning for pampas grass, know that is will thrive in exposed sites, and there are some varieties which are less obvious, consider Cortaderia richardii, this evergreen and slow growing grass is very attractive in planting schemes.
So now you know, grass is not just green and for mowing, make space in your garden to add interest and spectacle with ornamental grasses.